The Anpanman Museum

Japan’s Most Popular Museum: The Anpanman Museum

Anpanman Museum, or Yanase Takashi Memorial Art Museum, located in the cartoonist Yanase’s hometown, Kahoku-cho, Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku, in the southern part of Japan, opened on July 21, 1996. Financially speaking, this is, at the moment, the most successful cartoon/animation related museum in Japan, and is now receiving more visitors than the Tezuka Museum in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. This is a museum devoted to an enormously popular cartoon hero created by Mr. Yanase, who was born in 1919, graduated from Chiba University as an industrial design major, and went on to become a cartoonist, illustrator and author of children’s books. Yanase is also quite well known among animation enthusiasts as the director of the animated short Yasashii Lion (The Gentle Lion), produced by Mushi Productions in the 1960s, and character designer of Osamu Tezuka’s animated feature A Thousand and One Nights.

Yanase created the Anpanman character in the picture book Anpanman, published in 1973. The original story goes a little something like this: A baker named Uncle Jam was baking bread one night. Suddenly, a fragment of a golden star fell through the chimney, and became the character called Anpanman. Anpan is one of the most popular pastries in Japan and is a round bread with sweet bean paste filling. Anpanman, a fairy tale superhero with an Anpan-head, can fly and fights for justice, but hates violence. He tries to save the world not with his physical strength, but rather by sacrificing himself. For instance, he saves a hungry boy by allowing him to eat his head. After his job as a superhero is done, he returns to Uncle Jam. Anpanman’s head is often half, or even completely, eaten up. Thanks to Uncle Jam though his head is revitalized over and over again, because baking the Anpan-head is not a difficult task for the baker.

One Baked Man’s Success
Anpanman moved to a monthly picture book Shi to Marchen (Poetry and Fantasy), which is edited by Yanase himself and was serialized. Soon Anpanman stories became popular among children, and an Anpanman picture book series followed. In October, 1988, the TV cartoon series Go Go Anpanman was launched on the NTV (Nippon Television) network. This half-hour cartoon series continues even to this day. Anpanman also became the Sunday color comic strip in the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of the three major newspapers with a nationwide circulation, and won the Japan Cartoonists Association’s Grand Prix in 1990.

Mr. Yanase at the Museum surrounded by his beloved and financially-rewarding pals. © Yanase Studio, 1999.

Since the TV cartoon series began, Yanase has created more than six hundred side characters for the series. Surprisingly, all of them have names. Anpanman’s arch villain, Baikin-man (Germ Man) always tries to beat Anpanman and his bread friends, who are the good guys, but never succeeds. Although Baikin-man is a threat to the bread world, this cute, sloppy villain is also popular with the child audience. Most of the side characters are derived from various kinds of food, such as bread, sweets, etc. Many female characters have also been created as members of the Anpanman family. The popularity of the series owes much to the variety of side characters like Cheese, a dog, and Loaf Bread-man — all related to children’s favorite snacks and foods.

The first Anpanman animated feature film was released through Shochiku Films in the summer of 1989. Every summer since then, children await for a new feature to open. So far ten such features have been released. The Anpanman films feature simple animation for children, but are also filled with good songs which they can easily sing. This is another major point of its popularity. To ensure quality, Yanase never fails to check the script. Once, a film was almost completed, but Yanase was not satisfied, so it was re-shot. During the summer of 1999, Yanase will be checking the script for the new feature, which will be about Anpanman’s adventures in space.

The killing of a National Hero

africa crowd 2

Patrice Lumumba: the most important assassination of the 20th century

The US-sponsored plot to kill Patrice Lumumba, the hero of Congolese independence, took place 50 years ago today

Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was assassinated 50 years ago today, on 17 January, 1961. This heinous crime was a culmination of two inter-related assassination plots by American and Belgian governments, which used Congolese accomplices and a Belgian execution squad to carry out the deed.

Ludo De Witte, the Belgian author of the best book on this crime, qualifies it as “the most important assassination of the 20th century”. The assassination’s historical importance lies in a multitude of factors, the most pertinent being the global context in which it took place, its impact on Congolese politics since then and Lumumba’s overall legacy as a nationalist leader.

For 126 years, the US and Belgium have played key roles in shaping Congo’s destiny. In April 1884, seven months before the Berlin Congress, the US became the first country in the world to recognise the claims of King Leopold II of the Belgians to the territories of the Congo Basin.

When the atrocities related to brutal economic exploitation in Leopold’s Congo Free State resulted in millions of fatalities, the US joined other world powers to force Belgium to take over the country as a regular colony. And it was during the colonial period that the US acquired a strategic stake in the enormous natural wealth of the Congo, following its use of the uranium from Congolese mines to manufacture the first atomic weapons, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

With the outbreak of the cold war, it was inevitable that the US and its western allies would not be prepared to let Africans have effective control over strategic raw materials, lest these fall in the hands of their enemies in the Soviet camp. It is in this regard that Patrice Lumumba’s determination to achieve genuine independence and to have full control over Congo’s resources in order to utilise them to improve the living conditions of our people was perceived as a threat to western interests. To fight him, the US and Belgium used all the tools and resources at their disposal, including the United Nations secretariat, under Dag Hammarskjöld and Ralph Bunche, to buy the support of Lumumba’s Congolese rivals , and hired killers.

In Congo, Lumumba’s assassination is rightly viewed as the country’s original sin. Coming less than seven months after independence (on 30 June, 1960), it was a stumbling block to the ideals of national unity, economic independence and pan-African solidarity that Lumumba had championed, as well as a shattering blow to the hopes of millions of Congolese for freedom and material prosperity.

The assassination took place at a time when the country had fallen under four separate governments: the central government in Kinshasa (then Léopoldville); a rival central government by Lumumba’s followers in Kisangani (then Stanleyville); and the secessionist regimes in the mineral-rich provinces of Katanga and South Kasai. Since Lumumba’s physical elimination had removed what the west saw as the major threat to their interests in the Congo, internationally-led efforts were undertaken to restore the authority of the moderate and pro-western regime in Kinshasa over the entire country. These resulted in ending the Lumumbist regime in Kisangani in August 1961, the secession of South Kasai in September 1962, and the Katanga secession in January 1963.

No sooner did this unification process end than a radical social movement for a “second independence” arose to challenge the neocolonial state and its pro-western leadership. This mass movement of peasants, workers, the urban unemployed, students and lower civil servants found an eager leadership among Lumumba’s lieutenants, most of whom had regrouped to establish a National Liberation Council (CNL) in October 1963 in Brazzaville, across the Congo river from Kinshasa. The strengths and weaknesses of this movement may serve as a way of gauging the overall legacy of Patrice Lumumba for Congo and Africa as a whole.

The most positive aspect of this legacy was manifest in the selfless devotion of Pierre Mulele to radical change for purposes of meeting the deepest aspirations of the Congolese people for democracy and social progress. On the other hand, the CNL leadership, which included Christophe Gbenye and Laurent-Désiré Kabila, was more interested in power and its attendant privileges than in the people’s welfare. This is Lumumbism in words rather than in deeds. As president three decades later, Laurent Kabila did little to move from words to deeds.

More importantly, the greatest legacy that Lumumba left for Congo is the ideal of national unity. Recently, a Congolese radio station asked me whether the independence of South Sudan should be a matter of concern with respect to national unity in the Congo. I responded that since Patrice Lumumba has died for Congo’s unity, our people will remain utterly steadfast in their defence of our national unity.

Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History

Hello from Jamaica!

Usain Bolt

The fastest man on earth

Usain Bolt became the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter races in world record times in 2008. Four years later, at the London Olympics, he became the first man to win gold medals in both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic Games and the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is arguably the fastest man in the world, winning three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and becoming the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter races in record times.

Bolt won his fourth Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, beating rival Yohan Blake, who took silver. Bolt ran the race in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record, making him the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition. The win marked Bolt’s second consecutive gold medal in the 100. Bolt went on to compete in the men’s 200, claiming his second consecutive gold medal in that race. He is the first man to win both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Olympic Games, as well as the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in double sprints.

Usain Bolt was born in Jamaica on August 21, 1986. Both a standout cricket player and a sprinter early on, Bolt’s natural speed was noticed by coaches at school, and he began to focus solely on sprinting under the tutelage of Pablo McNeil, a former Olympic sprint athlete. (Glen Mills would later serve as Bolt’s coach and mentor.) As early as age 14, Bolt was wowing fans of sprinting with his lightning speed, and he won his first high school championships medal in 2001, taking the silver in the 200-meter race.

At the age of 15, Bolt took his first shot at success on the world stage at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, where he won the 200-meter dash, making him the youngest world-junior gold medalist ever. Bolt’s feats impressed the athletics world, and he received the International Association of Athletics Foundation’s Rising Star Award that year and soon was given the apt nickname “Lightning Bolt.”

Professional Career

Despite a nagging hamstring injury, Bolt was chosen for the Jamaican Olympic squad for the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was eliminated in the first round of the 200-meter, though, again hampered by injury.

Bolt reached the world Top 5 rankings in 2005 and 2006. Unfortunately, injuries continued to plague the sprinter, preventing him from completing a full professional season.

The year 2007 proved to be a breakthrough one for Bolt, as he broke the national 200-meter record held for over 30 years by Donald Quarrie, and earned two silver medals at the World Championship in Osaka, Japan. These medals boosted Bolt’s desire to run, and he took a more serious stance toward his career.

Olympic Gold and World Records

Bolt announced that he would run the 100-meter and 200-meter events at the Beijing Summer Olympics. In the 100-meter final, Bolt broke the world record, winning in 9.69 seconds. Not only was the record set without a favorable wind, but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished (and his shoelace was untied), an act that aroused much controversy later on.

At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, held in London, Bolt won his fourth Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100-meter race, beating rival Yohan Blake, who won silver in the event. Bolt ran the race in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record. The win marked Bolt’s second consecutive gold medal in the 100. He went on to compete in the men’s 200, claiming his second consecutive gold medal in that race. He is the first man to win both the 100 and 200 in consecutive Olympic Games, as well as the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in double sprints. Bolt’s accomplishments have made him the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition.

Accolades and ‘Lightning’ Pose

Following his 200 meters, in an interview with CBS News, Bolt detailed his pride over his 2012 performance: “It’s what I came here to do. I’m now a legend. I’m also the greatest athlete to live. I’ve got nothing left to prove.” Bolt took back the 100-meter world title on August 11, 2013, after having lost the title in 2011. Although Bolt didn’t strike his signature “lightning bolt” pose after the race, his winning image still caused a stir, with lightning striking just as he crossed the finish line.

In 2015, Bolt faced some challenges. He came in second at the Nassau IAAF World Relays in May, but secured an individual win in the 200-meter event at Ostrava Golden Spike event that same month. He also dominated the 200-meter race at the New York Addias Grand Prix that June. But trouble with his pelvic muscles led him to withdraw from two races. Bolt, however, made a comeback that July with a 100-meter win at London’s Anniversary Games. Still this elite runner is expected to face some stiff competition from American Justin Gatlin at the 2015 World Championships.

Bolt’s achievements in sprinting have earned him numerous awards, including the IAAF World Athlete of the Year (twice), Track & Field Athlete of the Year and Laureus Sportsman of the Year.